Tariqa Muhammadiyya Article Five: Treating Bad Character

In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course “The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained” provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves with when seeking the attainment of taqwa. This article will focus on the methods of treating bad characters.

Treating Bad Character

The general treatment for a bad character can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Knowing about the diseases of the heart
  2. Self-awareness and recognition of these diseases within oneself
  3. Removal of the triggers and causes of the diseases


The first step to rectifying your heart is knowledge. It is essential to know the realities, harms, and causes of the illnesses of the heart to make any meaningful change. Furthermore, there must also be an understanding of the opposites of the bad qualities that plague our hearts; virtuous attributes. In turn, we must understand the benefits of these good qualities and the means to acquiring them. 


Knowledge of the diseases of the heart is of no use if one does not recognize them within themself. Find the presence of these ailments within yourself through investigation. Reflect and ask yourself, “Where am I at? And what do I struggle with?” The Quran calls us to reflect on the many wondrous creations of Allah, but many Muslims don’t realize that this includes the subtle inward states of our hearts as well. Reflection upon these states is the light-giving lamp that our hearts need to move from darkness into light.

Often, self-reflection isn’t enough, so the next thing to do is surround yourself with people who will point out the traits of character that you must work to correct. These can be people of knowledge—whose advice you seek—and good companions who can tell you the things you must improve upon. Remember that a true friend is one who tells you what you need to hear and not only what you want to hear. 

It would also do you well to carefully consider the things your enemies (or in a modern context: rivals or adversaries) say about you. Nobody will be more truthful to you about your nature than your enemies. Know that the issues they point out have an element of truth to them, so look sincerely inward and learn from them!

In addition, observe the people around you and learn from them. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The believer is the mirror of the believer.” They are a reminder for any seekers who are genuinely seeking insight into their own nature. Remember that the faults of your fellow believer are likely within you as well. So hasten to overlook them and do not let arrogance muddy your heart.


When seeking to remove an ailment of the heart, you must identify the general causes of the blameworthy trait and also what triggers you personally. For example, a person who struggles with restraining their anger shouldn’t just proclaim that they don’t want to get angry anymore. This is not a productive use of their time. Instead, they must figure out what makes them angry and work towards treating its underlying causes. A foolish person sees a weed and merely cuts the plant, while the wise person uproots it from the ground.

Next, hold yourself to the virtuous opposite of the bad quality you wish to remove. Work hard—perhaps even go overboard—to force upon yourself the good quality. The person struggling with miserliness should force themself to be generous beyond what would be deemed balanced. They should spend more and more until the miser within them is stamped out, and generosity becomes an embedded trait within their heart. Then they can return to a more balanced pattern of giving charity on an ongoing basis. But in the beginning, you must fake it till you make it. 

The steps to spiritual rehabilitation are to bring into your life:

  1. The obligatory (fard), and remove the prohibited (haram)
  2. The core sunnas, and remove the prohibitively disliked things
  3. The optional sunnas, and remove the mildly disliked things
  4. More difficult things—after consultation from a scholar—like making vows to do actions that will be uncomfortable for your nafs and induce change.

To recap, the method of treating of bad character is:

  1. Knowing about the diseases of the heart.
    • Realities of the diseases
    • Causes of the diseases
    • Opposites of the diseases 
  2. Self-awareness and recognition of these diseases within oneself
    • Reflection
    • Good company
    • Mentorship
    • Enemies
    • Observing others
  3. Removal of the triggers and causes of the diseases
    • Identify personal causes
    • Apply the virtuous opposite (be generous, if miserly)
    • Positive self-reproach

“Your being on the lookout for the vices hidden within you is better than your being on the lookout for the invisible realities veiled from you.” [Ibn Ata’illa al-Iskandari]

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

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The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.